As humans, we tend to be wary of change. This is especially true when it comes to the products and services we use. That “new and improved” formula? No thanks – please give us the real thing.
Therefore, it is not surprising that there has been a lot of grumbling in the WordPress community lately. A number of big name WordPress plugins have changed hands. The content management system ecosystem was suddenly shaken as hard as a snowball.
A mix of designers, developers and website owners have used social media to voice their concerns. They wonder how this transaction will impact them and their clients. This is an understandable reaction in a time of such uncertainty.
Many of us feel a vested interest in the plugins we use. Sometimes it is difficult to separate the emotional aspects of a change from the rational. However, those feelings can be based on unpleasant experiences from our past. The reality is that not all transitions are smooth.
So how much should you worry about when a trusted WordPress plugin comes under new ownership? Let’s try and understand everything. Along the way, I’ll add a bit of personal perspective.
There is a story behind every movement
Knowing that the plugin you rely on has been sold can feel like a punch to the stomach. I can attest that, as a user, my first reaction is likely to be disappointment. I’ve always wondered why something like that would happen, why the developer couldn’t just walk away.
But every time a plugin is bought or sold, there is a background story. And there are a number of reasons why someone would want to sell. Perhaps it responsibility has exceeded the capacity of the original developer to handle it. Maybe there is family problem. Opportunities for cash-in are also in play.
On the other hand, the new owners have their own agenda. They may see this product as a product that fits into their established offering. In addition, they may believe that their vision for the product is one that can drive growth.
Whatever the specifics, it’s important to remember that it takes two sides to make this deal happen. One party wants to buy, and the other party is willing to sell.
And when a plugin creator is willing to sell their creation, there’s reason to think it might be in the best interest of the product. There is always the possibility that, without sales, the long-term prospects for the plugin may be in jeopardy.
So while we might expect things to stay the same, they may have changed.
Waiting with Uncertainty
Among the biggest stressors that come with this transaction is the uncertainty about what will change and when it will happen. Unfortunately, new ownership doesn’t always provide a direct answer.
We might get a guarantee that things will stay “as is” for now. Software license will remain valid, features x, you, and z will continue to work. However, it still feels like changes impacting this area are inevitable.
Personally, my biggest concern tends to be price. Regardless of who owns a particular plugin, price increases are often part of the deal – I get it. If the product is good, I don’t mind paying a little more from time to time.
But major changes in this area can be problematic for both web designers and their clients. If you normally purchase a developer license to use on a client’s site, a higher price means passing on the fee. And if the number of sites allowed per license change, that can be another expensive headache to deal with.
Then, changes in support and staff policies can be alarming. We all want to know that support is there for us when we need it and can help in a timely manner. So, there are concerns about the new ownership that might take a shortcut.
In terms of features, users need to know that things will still work as expected. This is especially important when it comes to third-party integration.
For example, what if a plugin is currently integrated with a competitor’s product – will it still be supported in the future? No one wants their options to be limited by a corporate jousting match. The larger these companies, the more likely such a situation will arise.
Impact on Individual Websites
In the end, people wonder about the impact the acquisition will have on their own website. Especially when a plugin is responsible for a major part of the site’s core functionality. Add-ons like shopping carts, learning management systems (LMS), and membership managers come to mind.
People invest a lot of time and money into these types of websites. And the thought of swapping out plugins is enough to give anyone the creeps.
However, the new ownership itself is no reason to panic. While there may be a bit of uncertainty among users, that’s not the case with plugin creators. They (hopefully) have a plan to get started and gain a lot of insight into how things work. It’s even better if the original author, or some of the current maintainers, are still in the picture.
With that said, you might expect some minor hiccups during the transition. But there’s no rush to run away from your current site configuration. It’s fine to take the time to see how things are going.
It’s natural to have questions and concerns. In this case, the best thing to do is to reach out and try to get some answers.
And if you want to learn alternative plugins, there’s no harm in doing so. Being ready is always positive.
Deep Breaths and Many New Beginnings for the WordPress Community
Sometimes, WordPress plugin speed changes hands dizzy. Just as we get word of one important transaction, others follow. That alone can feel overwhelming and cause some concern in the community.
Plus, it’s disappointing that some well-known developers are moving on. They have built a high level of trust with their customers and brought something unique to the WordPress ecosystem. They will be missed.
However, I think it’s important to keep things in perspective. No, not every acquisition will work out perfectly. Some may even fail. However, it’s in us as web professionals to try and see things objectively.
Therefore, I invite all of you to take deep breaths collectively (with masks and six feet apart, of course). Things have changed. But it’s up to us to make the most of it.
Changing Hands Post: Should You Worry When a WordPress Plugin Has a New Owner? first appeared in Speckyboy Design Magazine.